Beijing – The water level in China’s Three Gorges Dam reached full capacity on Tuesday, for the first time since the world’s biggest hydro-electric project began generating power in 2008, according to state media.
The amount of water in the dam’s reservoir along the Yangtze river, China’s longest, reached its height capacity of 175m early on Tuesday morning, project leader Cao Guangjing told Xinhua news agency.
Cao called the high water mark “a milestone in the construction of the gigantic reservoir”, which will allow the dam to fulfil its flood control, power generation and navigational functions.
Construction of the controversial $22.5bn dam began in 1993, but water storage in the 600km reservoir only started in 2003, the report said. In 2008, when the dam began to generate power, the water level in the reservoir had reached 172.8m.
About 1.4 million people were displaced to make way for the dam project, the construction of which plunged several heritage sites deep underwater.
Critics of the dam have long warned of environmental pollution and geological hazards along the massive reservoir.
During the first six months of power generation, landslides and mudflows caused by rising and falling waters behind the dam forced the relocation of an additional 28 000 people, Xinhua said at the time.
In August, the English-language China Daily reported that layers of garbage and debris were building up in the reservoir, threatening to block the massive dam.
According to the Three Gorges Project Corporation, the dam currently operates 26 generators with a total designed capacity of 84.7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.
Another six generators are under construction and expected to be operational by 2012.